Avoid outages with regular infrared testing

September 7, 2017

In addition to selling and refurbishing electrical transformers, Solomon provides an extensive list of full-service maintenance and testing. One of the services we provide is infrared testing, which we recommend be done on an annual basis.

Any equipment with current flowing through a wire can benefit from IR testing. Infrared examines the thermal picture and can help locate issues such as loose connections or equipment malfunctions before they cause equipment damage or outages.

This type of diagnostic is important for our customers to help them stay ahead of the maintenance curve. “We find issues and help our customers plan for maintenance,” said Tim Cornelius, Technical Specialist. “Left unresolved, hot spots can degrade until there’s an unplanned outage due to equipment failure.”

Solomon’s IR testing can help you:

  • Avoid unplanned outages
  • Reduce wear on equipment by noticing issues early
  • Save money spent on replacing and repairing equipment

Beating the heat

A hydro plant in Kansas, thought it had a transformer problem, causing it to overheat. When Tim was on site, the air temperature was 105F. “With the IR pictures, I could see that the transformer was operating properly,” he said.

There was a large rock dike around the transformer. The problem was that the transformer, in essence, was in a hole. No breeze was getting to the radiators to cool the transformer.

The solution was simple. “Our field service crew went on site and added cooling fans, and eliminated the plant’s problem,” Tim explained.

How IR testing works

Testing is performed using a camera specifically designed to work in the infrared frequency range, which is where heat signatures would be. “This is just above the red end of the visible light spectrum, but below microwave,” Tim said.

Infrared testing can be performed by a technician with a Level 1 Thermographer (or higher) certification. “Anyone can use the camera,” Tim said, “but without training, camera setup and analysis of the results can be difficult.”

Technicians who perform infrared testing must complete a weeklong training class to earn Level 1 Thermographer certification. “This is the basic ‘how to shoot IR’ course” Tim said. “There are also Level 2 and 3, but they are for those who want to become a trainer.” Solomon has two Level 1-certified thermographers who completed their training at FLIR.

Infrared testing can be performed anywhere temperature readouts would be helpful. “In our industry, we use infrared testing for power substations looking for poor electrical connections, transformer oil level and internal equipment issues among other things,” Tim said. It can also be effective in identifying poor connections in electrical panels, water leak detection on rooftops, and building walls for heat leaks, he explained.

Infrared tests on electrical equipment is performed on-site. The thermographer goes where the issue is; equipment needs to be energized and in service to identify any potential issues. Testing is performed to find issues early, so they can be repaired before serious equipment degradation.

Getting correct infrared analysis

In another situation, a customer planned to pull a transformer out of service and send it in to have Solomon service what they believed was plugged radiators. Tim was able to determine that the radiators were not plugged, which is a very rare occurrence.

The transformer was simply low on oil, due to years of periodic DGA sampling. They added a few gallons of oil and fixed the problem, avoiding needlessly spending quite a bit of money. This illustrates why you need training when purchasing an IR camera to correctly assess the situation.

Making infrared testing part of your maintenance program

Routine maintenance can help your save money by extending the lifetime of your equipment and keeping it running at optimal levels. Make infrared testing part of your annual maintenance program. For more information or to request a quote, visit us at www.solomoncorp.com or call 800-234-2867.